I’m currently engaged in a month-long daily writing agreement with another writer. Recently she asked me if I noticed a difference in process from writing every day (which I did for 3 years) and writing in spates. This is the response I sent her.
“First off, let me say that it feels weird and presumptuous for me to share my experiences with you, since you are an anointed writer and I’m still in the fake-it-til-you-make-it phase.
“That being said, since you asked…
“I decided to start writing daily at a time in my life when I had very little else I cared about. My family and my writing were all that mattered.
“I was stuck in a job I hated in a company where I was isolated, under-utilized, and miserable. My job required no problem-solving or intelligence, and nobody cared whether I did it or not.
“One of the hardest parts of writing every day was training the people around me to accept it. If someone says that they do yoga or run every day, people accept it. They admire you for it. But if you do something creative every day, people look at you like you’ve caught a horrible disease and say, “Why?” or “ You can skip it, this once.” I’m certain the words my children pick for my headstone will be, “Don’t bother mom. She’s writing.”
“I also had to get past the mom-guilt of feeling like I was abandoning my children by taking so much time for myself. (My minimum was 1 hour per day, though on weekends I often did 3 or more). But I truly believe that when I’m actively writing I am a more present and engaged mother. I also feel like it’s important to model to my girls that a woman’s time to herself and a woman’s creative pursuits are valid and valuable.
“But I’ve veered off topic. Let’s see. Writing every day made me slip into story and character faster. I often would stop right in the middle of a scene that was zipping along nicely, so I’d be able to dive right back in again.
“My characters were realer, clearer. I had one character who woke me in the middle of the night because he was so in love he couldn’t stand it. The benefit of have a daily writing time was that I was able to tell him, “We have an appointment at noon tomorrow. We’ll talk then.” It compartmentalized my writing more. While it was constantly stewing, it wasn’t constantly demanding my attention this very second.
“The routines were tricky. But I treated it, and trained my family to treat it, as something that simply happens every day. Like eating breakfast or brushing your teeth. It wasn’t optional. (Though there were days when I had to decide between writing and showering).
“Doing it for that long, what I found is that the act of writing, and the world I was creating, became my place of consistency even when everything else was in flux.
“It’s not completely honest to say I wrote every single day. I can think of at least twice when I skipped days. Once was a long camping trip. The other was after my brother’s suicide when I didn’t write for 5 days. After 5 days, I needed to write. I needed it more than anything. It was my island of calm in the chaos. At that time I was writing in the library. So on the fifth day, I went.
“I remember getting to the door of the stairwell and being overwhelmed. Certain I couldn’t write. Certain my grief would silence me. So I said aloud to my dead brother, “You can’t come with me. You have to wait here.” And he did. I was able to escape from my grief. To create a space it couldn’t enter. I don’t know if that could have happened had I not been as disciplined about my daily writing up to that point.
“When my writing time is spotty, it seems like my writing is clearer and better organized. When I write every day, my writing is more fun, more passionate, and sometimes so messy as to be counterproductive.
“One more interesting observation. I LOVE to cook. When I write daily, I rarely tackle the challenging recipes I would normally be super-impatient to try out. I think maybe there’s just only so much creativity to go around.”